In this crazy post-hockey (at least for the regular season) time, if you’re a Vancouver Canucks fan you might be happy to learn there’s still some news being generated from the team and the organization. In this post, I want to help Canucks’ fans stay up-to-date with that news and those rumors.
Item One: The Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE) Is Supporting Its Workers
Last week, the Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE) announced that the organization would continue to work in “real-time” to support staff. Specifically, the CSE has created a financial assistance program and a play to create and offer short-term employment into the greater Vancouver community. Although the Canucks were not the first NHL organization to support their workers, they are doing so.
Good for the Canucks’ organization — that means part-time employees will receive wages from CSE and that the organization would “top up” these workers’ EI benefits for all the shifts missed because the NHL regular season has been “paused.” The organization also announced that employees who didn’t qualify for EI benefits would be paid an equivalent of CSE’s top-up portion. From my perspective, creating employment opportunities for part-time employees is a great idea.
Finally, the CSE is creating a partnership with the BC Care Providers Association to help provide on-going support vulnerable to seniors’ homes that are short-staffed by helping to provide temporary, voluntary opportunities for part-time CSE staff that would include preparing food and cleaning. Any employees who volunteer support would be paid their regular salaries they would receive from the hockey team.
Item Two: Jacob Markstrom Fully Recovered from His Knee Injury
When Jacob Markstrom suffered a knee injury playing in late February, he needed some sort of surgery (the report was a “procedure”) to fix it. That put him in jeopardy of missing the remainder of the regular season; however, given recent events, that timeline seems inconsequential.
Reports early last week were that Markstrom had started to skate again and, although no team practices are being held anywhere in the NHL, he’ll continue to conduct his own “modified rehab program” at home as he works to strengthen his knee. If the season ever resumes, Markstrom’s being available to play would give the Canucks a major boost if a postseason is played.
As THW rumors reporter Jim Parsons noted in a recent post, Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning shared during an audio segment on Sportsnet 650 that he hoped to sign Markstrom (who’s a pending unrestricted free agent) to a contract extension. However, with speculation the salary cap wouldn’t jump as much as early projections because of the huge loss in hockey revenue, it’s not likely there’ll be space for salary negotiations in the foreseeable future.
Item Three: The Canucks Sign Marc Michaelis
On Mar. 19, Canucks general manager Benning announced that the team had signed free-agent Marc Michaelis to a one-year contract. The 24-year-old Michaelis, a native of Mannheim, Germany, played 31 games for Minnesota State University this season. His 20 goals and 44 points made him the team leader in scoring. After four seasons with the MSU Mavericks, including two where he served as team captain, his body of work was 162 points (71-91-162) in 148 games.
Benning spoke highly of the over-age university player when he noted: “Marc has exceptional offensive instincts and proven leadership. We look forward to adding his skill and play-making ability to the franchise.”
Obviously, Bennings’s assessment holds some value because Michaelis was named the 2019-20 Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Offensive Player of the Year. His 44 points tied him for third in the US in scoring and he led the WCHA in goals per game (0.65), points per game (1.42), power-play points (21), shorthanded goals, (3) and game-winning goals (5). As well, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward represented Team Germany in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships.
That said, it’s not clear if Michaelis will start with the Canucks or head to the minors in 2020-21. My guess is that he’s likely bound for the Utica Comets when hockey resumes.
Item Four: Canucks Sign William Lockwood
Mar. 19 was a busy day for the organization, and Benning also signed 21-year-old prospect William Lockwood to a two-year entry-level contract. The 5-foot-11, 172-pound right-winger was drafted 64th overall by Vancouver in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Similar to Michaelis, Lockwood spent the past four seasons at the university level, playing with the University of Michigan.
Lockwood played in 33 games for the University of Michigan this season and scored 23 points (9 goals and 14 assists). The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, native ranked second on the Wolverines in goals, assists, and points in 2019-20. In his four seasons at Michigan, he had scored 85 points (37-48-85) in 115 games.
Lockwood has also played internationally with Team USA and helped them take home bronze medals at both the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships and the 2016 U-18 Men’s World Championship.
Benning described Lockwood as a “hard-working, two-way winger with scoring ability” who “plays with urgency and creates chances for himself and his teammates.” My best guess is that Lockwood, like Michaelis, will need seasoning in the minors before earning a chance at the NHL level.
What’s Next for the Canucks?
In looking at the team’s recent collegiate signings from US universities, one has to believe that Benning and the Canucks’ organization have been happy with the play of former collegiate Adam Gaudette, who had a great career at Northeastern University in Massachusetts and has translated that play into success at the NHL level.
Still no word on any resumption of any version of an NHL season — it’s just too hard to tell where things are going.